The FCC has adopted new rules that ease restrictions on the marketing and importation of devices that require approval but have not yet received it. These new rules will allow companies to import devices before approval and expand opportunities for advertising and sales (but not delivery) during the pre-approval period.

FCC rules have banned the sale or import of regulated devices into the United States until the devices have received the required equipment clearance. While there were exceptions to this rule, none of the exceptions allowed unapproved devices to be marketed to the public. The new FCC rules are intended to help deliver products to consumers more efficiently.

The new rules provide that up to 12,000 regulated devices can be imported for pre-sale activity if those devices:

  1. Are subject to a certification application that has been submitted to a telecommunications certification body
  2. Include a temporary label visible from the outside prohibiting consumer display, operation and delivery of the device before certification is granted
  3. Remain under the legal ownership of the device manufacturer, developer, importer or final recipient, or their designated customs broker

This process does not apply to devices subject only to the vendor’s declaration of conformity rules, such as computers and computing devices, as there is no approval process for these devices after testing is complete.

The FCC also revised an existing exception to extend limited marketing and conditional sales to consumers of certain radio frequency (RF) devices before the equipment is authorized. The existing exception allows conditional sales contracts between manufacturers and wholesalers or retailers if delivery is subject to compliance with the equipment authorization and applicable technical requirements. The new FCC rules extend this exception to allow conditional sales and advertising for such sales to other entities, including consumers, provided both of these conditions are met:

  1. The potential buyer is informed at the time of marketing that the delivery of the device is subject to obtaining by the seller the authorization of the equipment.
  2. Seller includes a prominent disclosure that the Equipment is subject to FCC Equipment Authorization Rules and that delivery is conditional upon receipt of Equipment Authorization.

The FCC also now allows manufacturers to include the expected FCC ID on a device if that ID is obscured by a temporary label until the FCC approves the device.

Even under the new rules, however, devices that have not yet received an equipment authorization cannot be delivered to consumers, although they can be distributed to wholesalers or retailers. In addition, the pre-sale activities permitted under the revised rules do not allow the display, use or delivery of unauthorized devices to end users. Finally, import and marketing rules oblige the manufacturer or importer to recover all devices that have been distributed if they do not receive an equipment authorization.

These changes promise to get devices into the hands of consumers faster.

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